This was published in the NY Daily News on March 31, 2020, the day before rent was due. As Covid-19 continues to devastate, it remains relevant. Published article here: https://bit.ly/3ebFHev
Dear Gov. Cuomo,
I am a New Yorker who will start with a big thank you. I’ve watched you sweep in and take charge and rise to the curve of COVID-19, and I’ve watched America crush on you, hard. I’ve seen you do this before. I used to be paid to watch you take charge. I get Americans’ infatuation.
And because I know what you are capable of, I am asking: Will you cancel my rent this month? Please?
Not only mine, of course. Cancel our rents, across the state, like you suspended mortgage payments for three months.
And yes, rent is primarily a New York City issue. But we’re a big place.
You know our statistics: Two thirds of city residents are renters. That’s more than 5.5 million of us. And many of us, too many, have lost our income as a result of this novel coronavirus and the almost complete city shutdown that followed.I happen to be one of them. For the past year, I have been a gig worker who was doing decently well just before this happened. Then suddenly, consulting gig, event gig, tutoring gig, art gig: everything got canceled or put on hold. And when I think about how our country didn’t have to walk into this unprepared, and how some of the economic blows could have been anticipated. But nevermind that now.
I am also a former policy and advocacy manager whose team worked with yours on many state budgets. So I know how this works. I know that the rent bill that’s been sitting in the state Senate and Assembly committees for a week (S8125A/A10224A) needs your approval to become law. I know that the chorus of voices that include our mayor, our congressional delegation, housing advocates and many national leaders asking for rent relief needs yours added to it. I know that New Yorkers need you as much as the rest of the country does.
I also know that you know this isn’t simply a moral issue; it is very much an economic one. Because if even half of the 5.5 million or so New Yorkers living in rented apartments cannot or will not pay up when March turns into April, with many rent strikes already planned around the city, the ripple effects will be felt far and wide. It is the banks most in the position to absorb this, not the individuals. They have a stimulus package coming; we have $1,200 each. (And I know you know how much rent costs in NYC.)
And so I ask: Please cancel rent. Impose a three-month moratorium now, and not just for rent-stabilized apartments, but for everyone, like you did for mortgages. We will continue to do our part and stay home to stop the spread, and we will continue to be impressed with your leadership in this awful time. It will be much easier to do so without rent looming.